Graduate unemployment, artisanal and small-scale mining, and rural transformation in Ghana: What does the ‘educated’ youth involvement offer?

Francis Arthur-holmes*, Kwaku Abrefa Busia, Diego Alfonso Vazquez-brust, Natalia Yakovleva

*Corresponding author for this work

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In the face of rising graduate unemployment, an increasing number of graduates in Ghana have joined the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector. Hitherto, graduates were reluctant to take up jobs in ASM let alone move into rural areas to engage in ASM. In light of these ongoing employment dynamics, we investigate the reasons why educated youth in Ghana join the ASM sector by using digital interviewing methods (2 phone and 17 WhatsApp instant messenger interviews). Further, we examine how university graduates’ involvement in ASM transforms the rural communities they work in and how they are in turn shaped by the communities. These rural transformations have important policy considerations for this distinct youth group due to their ‘non-typical’ association as ASM
workers and how formalisation within the sector can increase the gains they actualise from the sector as a source of employment. We find that most university graduates join ASM because of four reasons: ASM serves as a primary livelihood source, for income diversification, lack of employment opportunities in the cities, and the profitability of ASM compared to jobs in other employment sectors and business opportunity for wealth accumulation. Among other things, graduates’ involvement in ASM transform rural communities in the following ways: reconfiguring the spatial mobilities of graduate employment sources towards rural areas; initiating community development through the establishment of ASM-related businesses; stimulating local economic growth through linkages to other sectors/industries; and influencing rural labour dynamics in ASM communities. Given these dynamics of rural transformation, educated youth involvement in ASM questions the singular conceptualisation of ASM as only ‘a poverty-driven activity’ and helps scholars to reconceptualise and recontextualise ASM taking into account the view of ASM as a business opportunity for job and wealth creation. The policy implications of our findings on the formalisation of ASM and the promotion of youth employment in the ASM sector in Ghana and potentially, elsewhere in Africa are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-139
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Early online date7 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022


  • Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)
  • Graduate unemployment
  • Rural transformation
  • ASM formalisation
  • Educated youth
  • Ghana


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